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Sustainable living: Trends and differences

January 15, 2024

Green trees in front of a white apartment building

Given the growing importance of environmentally friendly lifestyles, ecological awareness is becoming an increasingly decisive factor when choosing a place to live. But how important is sustainability when selecting a new home? How does this differ between rental tenants and owners? And what factors determine whether homeowners decide to renovate? The results of our “Immo-Barometer” survey answer these questions and are presented below (see info box for more about the survey).

Sustainability plays a key role when choosing a home

For around a quarter of respondents, sustainability is a key factor when choosing a home. And for just over half of those surveyed, it would be important if they were to move from their current home. The importance of sustainability is particularly high for homeowners. While not as influential as other characteristics, such as value for money, it is, on average, at the upper end of the scale for all survey participants.

It should be noted that the importance of sustainability has increased significantly in recent years compared with other factors. On the one hand, this is probably due to society’s increasing awareness of the issue. On the other, the high energy prices in the past year have also likely influenced the importance of energy consumption when choosing a home. But although the trend among tenants and owners is moving in a similar direction, there are also considerable differences.

How important is/would sustainability be to you when selecting a property?

Four out of five homeowners surveyed stated that a building’s energy efficiency was important or even decisive when choosing a property. The proportion of owners who described energy efficiency as a decisive building feature has remained constant since last year. However, the number of respondents who answered "fairly important" has increased by 10 percentage points since the previous year.

This is likely due to the rise in energy costs, as there was no similarly significant change among tenants. Although energy-related issues are also a priority for the latter, this is generally to a lesser degree than for owners. However, tenants attach more importance to issues that receive less approval overall – such as green facades and roofs, and building certification. Car-free living is marginally gaining in importance, but remains rather incidental (around 37%), if not completely irrelevant (41%), for most Swiss people when looking for a property.

Which of the following sustainability issues are/would be important to you when choosing a residential property?

Tenants: Are sustainability and energy efficiency underestimated?

Although the importance of sustainability has also increased among tenants looking for a home in recent years, this factor is still noticeably less important than it is among owners. One of the main reasons for this is probably that tenants simply have fewer opportunities to make changes to the property, and therefore feel more at the mercy of the market.

It is also conceivable that tenants do not think they would benefit from an energy-efficient refurbishment. One example of this would be that while investors may reap the positive financial effects of replacing a heating system, tenants would see an increase in rent due to the passing on of investment costs. However, this assumption would be short-sighted, as replacing the heating system would actually significantly reduce tenants' ancillary costs. Ultimately, targeted refurbishment should also have a positive result for tenants, as the Wüest Partner study Energetische Sanierungen: 3 Gewinner (“Energy-efficient refurbishments: 3 winners”) shows.

What factors motivate an energy-efficient refurbishment?

As energy-efficient refurbishments in existing properties are very important for achieving net-zero targets, we asked what motivates people to renovate. According to the results of our Immo-Barometer survey, the reduction in energy costs and available equity were decisive factors for owners in around a third of cases and important for planned refurbishments in a further third. This means that the financial component is more of a priority than improving sustainability. Subsidies, tax deductions, and favorable financing conditions were also important in more than half of all cases, both for apartment and single-family homeowners.

How important are/were the following factors for the planned maintenance projects?

Why aren't more renovations being carried out?

Those who were not planning any (or only minor) renovations were asked why. Unsurprisingly, the majority of respondents stated that refurbishing their property was not currently necessary. However, these results should be treated with caution. This is because the question was posed in such a way as to focus more on the subjective perception of the need for action and the renovation cycle than the ecological and economic effects.

While refurbishment may not seem necessary in all cases, it can nevertheless bring both financial and ecological benefits. For example, Wüest Partner's analysis from 2023, Immo-Monitoring 2023 | 2 (in German), showed that single-family homes with renewable heating systems and solar panels achieve higher sales prices. The price of a house with a heat pump and solar system in Switzerland can be 4.6 percent higher on average (CHF 55,000 for an average price of CHF 1.2 million) than that of comparable properties with fossil fuel heating systems and without photovoltaic systems. In the case of modern wood heating combined with a photovoltaic system, the price even rises by 5.4 percent. For apartments, the price increase due to renewable energies is somewhat lower. However, the advantages and disadvantages of an energy-efficient refurbishment must be examined on a case-by-case basis. Wüest Refurb assists in this regard (see info box for more).

Why aren’t more homes being renovated, if at all?


Sustainability is, therefore, becoming increasingly influential and has become an indispensable factor in the search for a home. The importance of the topic is significantly higher among owners than tenants. This is partly because the former have more room for maneuver and partly because they are more directly affected by the associated costs.

The challenges to achieving the net-zero target remain, but the survey is encouraging in that the trend of increasing importance of sustainability and energy consumption in the real estate market continues. However, the survey also shows that the cost component plays a key role in energy-efficient renovations, especially in the current environment of rising financing costs.

This article is the second part of the blog trilogy on the Immo-Barometer survey. The first part, Swiss housing satisfaction: in-depth analysis of trends and influencing factors, highlighted general housing satisfaction and important factors in property selection. In the third and final part (Housing satisfaction in the context of urban consolidation), the topic of housing satisfaction in connection with building density will be discussed in greater depth.

Immo-Barometer from Wüest Partner
The Immo-Barometer is a nationwide survey on the topics of housing satisfaction and housing needs, which Wüest Partner conducted again in 2023 with the support of the Swiss Homeowners Association (HEV) and the Swiss Real Estate Association (SVIT Switzerland). Around 1,000 representative households in German- and French-speaking Switzerland are surveyed in detail about their current housing situation and any plans for change. The Immo-Barometer is a long-term study that was first conducted in 1988 and has been undertaken at least every two years since then.

Wüest Refurb renovation calculator
The Wüest Refurb tool provides estimates and assistance for many of the above-mentioned decision-making bases for renovations. For example, it can be used to calculate energy cost savings, CO2 emission reductions, and subsidies for a specific renovation project. Wüest Partner covered the topic of subsidies in detail in the spring edition of Immo-Monitoring 2023|2 (in German), and renovation efficiency (with a focus on apartment buildings) in this year's fall edition of Immo-Monitoring 2024|1 (in German).

Contact our experts to learn more